Wild winter weather check-in

Readers Emily (left) Bradley (center) and Josh are making the most of the snow.

How are you doing with this wild weather?

What started as a dusting of snow, high winds, and record-setting cold temps Saturday has turned into a major weather event in Portland. There have been several deaths, lots of damaged property, school and business closures, and thousands are still without power. Folks who rely on TriMet have had a rough go as closures of the light rail system have wreaked havoc on some commutes.

As I type this Tuesday morning a possible ice storm is due to bear down on our city before the day is done. 

I’ve seen many posts of people bicycling and most roads are relatively rideable; but I haven’t been out much since Sunday morning. The photos I’ve seen of Mt. Tabor are heartbreaking! So many beautiful trees are gone, but even worse is the destruction of the big, covered picnic area near the start/finish of the Mt. Tabor series races. 

If the rain and ice comes today, I’d strongly advise against riding anywhere until things warm up Wednesday morning. Right now, protected bike lanes are almost impassable unless you have a fat bike or some other snow-specific rig. On major streets, only the lanes shared with car drivers are safe, so take caution if you use them.

I’m not sure if we’ll have Bike Happy Hour Wednesday (1/17), but I’ll let you know via @BikePortland on Instagram and on X tomorrow morning. 

I hope everyone is staying safe and warm. 


What are conditions like where you are? Have you ridden much? If so, what was your experience? 

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Watts
Watts
3 months ago

Sadly, I’m starting to see PBOT’s anti-bike gravel appearing on roads. I expect it will still be there in July.

mh
mh
3 months ago
Reply to  Watts

…by which time it will all have migrated into the curb zone, where most of our bike lanes are crammed.

Fred
Fred
3 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Yes, out here in the wilds of SW Portland, PBOT and ODOT went big this time with salting and sanding the major arterials. It’s like they saw an opportunity to do a GOOD JOB for once in getting these streets to bare pavement, so they went for it in a big way. The result is that they spread TONS of gravel and salt to create two narrow travel lanes for cars and trucks – one in each direction.

As for bike lanes and sidewalks? (such as exist out here) Fuhgedaboutit! I’ve been out on foot every day – not driving my car to reduce my impact – and the walking is really tough and almost impossible in most places. But I’ve lived here long enough to know that PBOT, and the CoP generally, is barely competent in the best times, so in a challenging time like this one, we should expect nothing. The best walking is on trails with packed snow.

I predict that PBOT will *never* remove any of the tons of gravel they have spread on most streets out here. Nature will have to do it. Some of the bike lanes out here are NEVER swept, even when I have reported them several times and eventually gave up.

Watts
Watts
3 months ago
Reply to  Fred

As for bike lanes and sidewalks? (such as exist out here) Fuhgedaboutit! 

Maybe we should use PCEF money for salting and sanding!

I predict that PBOT will *never* remove any of the tons of gravel they have spread on most streets out here.

I would not bet against you.

Peter
Peter
3 months ago

I’m curious, does anyone have experience with studded tires for when everything is covered in ice? It’s one of those things I wonder about every time it happens, even though it’s too infrequent to justify spending the money for me.

dw
dw
3 months ago
Reply to  Peter

When I am able to live somewhere with the space to store it, I want to get a fat bike with studded tires to use as a snow/ice bike.

lvc
lvc
3 months ago
Reply to  Peter

No experience with commercially available studded tires, but a few years ago I made a set of ice spike tires by driving wood screws through an old set of mountain bike tires I had laying around, then lining the tires with copious amounts of duct tape to keep the screw heads from puncturing the tubes. Works like a charm on solid ice, but I probably wouldn’t want to use them in conditions where there is a fair amount of bare pavement mixed with the snow or ice.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  Peter

I used to use studded tires all the time in North Dakota, back in the 90s before I moved to Portland, Bike Nashbar Novaras. I would sometimes even make my own – drive sheet metal screws into knobby tires. For both tires, drop the air pressure to the lowest setting marked on the tires (30 lbs typically). The front tire you need more control, so I’d usually make sure the larger studs (or less worn ones) were on it, and use a fat tire or a lightly studded one on the rear. It helps to drive 7 or 9 sheet metal screws into your shoe bottoms too, or use crampons on your footbed for gripping on ice. You can’t go very fast, but slippage is much less of an issue with studs.

Schwalbe makes multi-season studded tires of different grades and weights – the more expensive ones will last years. I knew a guy in the 80s who used bike tire chains – essentially steel cable seat leashes woven into a web – and claimed total control in any condition, including black ice.

Bob
Bob
3 months ago
Reply to  Peter

Only use a studded tire on the front. Your back tire will slip first and you have a chance to get your foot down. If your front tire slips, your doomed.

Matt
Matt
3 months ago
Reply to  Bob

Sure, if you’re okay with diminished acceleration and braking (both of which you should only be attempting at the rear wheel, in icy conditions).

Matt
Matt
3 months ago
Reply to  Peter

I used 26 x 2.0 studded tires on a regular old MTB, before I upgraded to an actual fatbike with studded tires. And it is a game-changer for sure. The 2-inch studded tires, I would say upgrade your traction to like riding knobby tires on mud–still pretty slippery, but much better than an ice rink. And the 4.6 inch fat tires upgrade the traction closer to that of riding knobbies on wet pavement.

The only drawbacks to studded tires are the high cost, and the fact that they’re loud as hell when you hit clear pavement.

Psyfalcon
Psyfalcon
3 months ago
Reply to  Peter

I never ran them in Portland, it was never really icy or snowy enough, even with a West Hills commute. But they do work. Chicago does not plow alleys, which means they are ice all winter. Studded Marathons will keep you upright on flatter ice, but aren’t great on iced over car tracks. They make tires for that sort of thing, but they’re probably not necessary in Portland. They do seem to cost me a mph or two, they are loud, and they will destroy wood floors.

dw
dw
3 months ago

I’m not brave enough to try riding on the ice, but I’ve been walking around my neighborhood a lot. It’s very peaceful, and makes me super grateful to have a warm place to live.

Snowstorms are the most effective traffic calming measure ever implemented in my neighborhood. Drivers, overwhelmingly, are very mindful of speed and stopping distance, and slow down to look before turning. Only seen a couple people playing with their phones – feels like it’s 1/5 drivers on their phones on normal days. They do all this despite the streets around them being wide-open and empty.

I wish we could change our infrastructure, enforcement, and culture to make people drive like that all the time.

Watts
Watts
3 months ago
Reply to  dw

Maybe we could deploy PCEF-funded year-round snow making machines.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
3 months ago

Use zip ties (1 per spoke) as single event ‘snow chains’ on my dutch bike with drum / coaster brakes. Not on rim brake bike. A bike with disk brakes might also work but I have not tried it yet. See my past BP post in the ~2006/2008.

Matt
Matt
3 months ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

I tried that once, and while better than nothing, many of the zip ties had broken off (i.e., turned into litter) after a short ride.

BethH
3 months ago

In the snow and ice storm of 2008, I wrapped zip ties around the rear wheel of my mountain bike, opened the brake and rode slowly to my job five miles away. When I got home that evening, I felt like such a rock star.
(Evidence photo included.)
These days I don’t take those kind of risks, but it’s nice to remember that I once could. Stay safe and sane out there, and when things clear up and warm up I’ll see you at Bike Happy Hour.

IMG_3677
John V
John V
3 months ago
Reply to  BethH

I guess my circulation must just be garbage or something. I see pictures like that, look at those gloves! Those are puny little gloves! I can’t do it in anything less than full on ski gloves or mittens and even that is iffy. I guess it was colder this time than in the 2008 storm, but still.

I just got a set of these: https://bikeiowa.store/products/pogielites
They are a game changer, I highly recommend. Fantastic things, I can ride around in most of our above-freezing winter with no gloves at all, or just small gloves with good dexterity. I still wore my ski gloves over the weekend though.

For what it’s worth, the snow was VERY nice to ride on this time. Dry and grippy, and not very deep. Still I did it on a bike with 2.5″ knobby tires, but it was like the snow wasn’t even there.

It does indeed make you feel like a rock star to be out there in weather many drivers won’t brave.